Sangam Cinemas have followed the footsteps of their rivals Sathyam by getting into film production with ‘Pizza’. It is notable that they have acquired the overall rights from the original producer C.V.Kumar(Attakathi).Pizza also showed a lot of promise in his trailers with thematic music, fresh casting and a potential crack at the rare (at least for Kollywood) genres of suspense and supernatural. Pizza also marks the directorial debut of Karthik Subbaraj, the second contribution of ‘Naalaya Iyakkunar’, a short film reality show in Kalaignar TV, as a follow up to Balaji of’Kadhalil Sodhapuvadhu Eppadi’ fame.
So is Pizza truly as different as it promises to be? Is this Nalaya Iyakkunar’s 2nd worthy gift to Tamil Cinema? Have Sangam Cinemas made a wise choice? The answer is a confident yes.
Revealing Pizza’s overall premise without giving away any of the gripping suspense it packs is close to impossible. I will anyways do my basics carefully. Michael Karthikeyan(Vijay Sethupathi) is your average pizza delivery boy and lives a happy existence with his live-in girlfriend and childhood sweetheart Anu (RemyaNambeesan). Anu is a horror junkie who consumes all things horror and supernatural, be it books, serials or movies, with glee and is also working on her dream project, a horror novel. As for Michael, though he makes no great money delivering pizzas, he has a contented life at home and work, where he has an understanding boss(Aadukalam Narain) and a friendly set of colleagues. Though Michael doesn’t believe in ghosts and the supernatural, Anu keeps challenging him that his ‘moment will come’ and he has a brief brush when he bumps into a rather weird happening at his boss’s house, involving his boss’s daughter, who is apparently possessed by a school girl’s spirit. Shortly after, he goes to a Anna Nagar bungalow to deliver Pizzas and that is where he gets involved in a life changing set of events.
Everything about the approach to tell the story on celluloid is very sincere. The length at 127 minutes is just about right. The performances of and all is very honest and subtle. Sethupathi who quietly ends up getting most of the screen time is a total natural and fits the role of your everyday Joe with his insecurities and struggles to the ‘T’. Remya, though not having as much of screen time, is very confident and shows no issues in adapting to Kollywood, that too in an unconventional film. The rest of the starcast, all comprising of reasonably unknown actors and ‘Nalaya Iyakkunar’ specialists, all rise up to the occasion and contribute to a seamless and distraction-free screenplay. Special mention must be made of the ever dependable Aadukalam Narain and newcomer Bobby, who sizzles in a brief role. There is also no unnecessary comedy track or sentimental sob story to deviate the viewer.
Technically, the film is brilliant in all aspects. This is one thing to say of the new age film makers and short film converts. Out of their eagerness to break into the industry they definitely expose themselves to the best the world has to offer technically and are eager to replicate the same in their movies, even in the face of stringent budgets and time constraints. Be it Gopi Amarnath’s cinematography, Leo John Paul’s editing or Santosh Narayanan’s BGM, they all ensure that the mood of the film is not compromised at any time. Some examples being the sustained suspense in the bungalow sequences even with minimal use of props, intelligent use of BGM elements in the suspense scenes such as song tracks for ringtones and toy noises and crisp edits at crucial junctures to creep you out. Musically, the film is a great follow up to Santhosh’s thematic work on Attakathi. Though all songs are worth a mention, ‘Mogathirai’ is my favourite, followed by ‘Rathiriyai‘. The placement, timing and length of these 2 songs and the creepy jazz number heighten their impact and relevance to the script. There are influences galore in the movie making approach, right from Shyamalan to RGV, but you don’t mind as they all blend into a coherent narrative.
The movie is surely not flaw-free and the following are some of the key ones. Given the final turn of events, the lengthy suspense sequences might leave a conventional viewer disappointed to some extent. Even for the experimentally inclined, this might feel interesting, but there are some repetitive thriller moments which could have been pruned. Secondly, when the final suspense is narrated, it was not necessary to spoon feed the whole screenplay in a repeat mode, scene by scene. We do this mistake in a lot of movies as a token measure to the vastly underrated IQ of our audience. But I would assume someone who has taken the courage to watch such a different movie, is already up there with his preparedness to consume it. Given these two issues and the overall treatment, you feel that Karthik has an inherent discipline in storytelling and timing given his short film background, but he still has a few steps to make before he can more effectively master the longer format and develop plot lines to fully utilize the medium.
All in all, Pizza definitely works big time as a weekend watch. There are some inherent limitations in the story chosen, but the performances extracted, technical standards and tight narration make this one roller coaster of a ride. It also contributes generously to the industry in terms of novelty in content and genre. I would happily give it 3.25 stars. Given this framework, a slighter bolder approach to length with pruning of the closing sequence and a few horror sequences, and I would have been generous to push the rating even further.